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Fire & Ice - Chapter 2
By
chippihc

Fire & Ice - Chapter 2

Reputation is everything, but all work and no play makes for a dull girl.

This is fiction, any resemblance to real persons or institutions is purely coincidental.

Jenna returned to her office after her breakfast meeting with Ray Evans excited for the rest of her day. He had been right about the Mediterranean Omelette, it had been delicious. She felt recharged and had a little more bounce to her step. She carefully reviewed the contract and legal forms that he sent to her email. They were quite transparent really, and she felt good about signing them and sending a scanned copy back to him. It had included his official documents showing that he was bonded and had gone through a background investigation with no criminal history and an exemplary credit rating.

Jenna could not really identify exactly why she felt good about accepting Ray as her life coach, but she did. At least for this trial period of one month. Maybe that was part of it, it was not a full commitment, it was a start and she felt in control. The best way she could describe Ray was formidable. He did not oversell himself or his services. He was just comfortable being who is is and Jenna really liked that. She could use some more of his help, for her to feel comfortable and accepting of who she was. 

Why shouldn't she? She felt good with all she had accomplished so far in her life. What she felt she lacked was just what she had explained to Cynthia Cox, that she was putting all her identity into her career. Exploring more of herself beyond that is what she really needed to be more complete in her life. At the end of their breakfast, that is what Ray said would be the purpose of their next consultation, to hear from Jenna who she was beyond being an Associate Partner at Barron and Associates.

That evening after work and her workout at the gym, Jenna reflected more on what she would tell Ray, about herself. She sat sideways on her couch, wearing her light flannel pajama pants and tee-shirt with her hair up in a ponytail, still a little wet from her shower. Noticing her tee-shirt she smiled, it was a William & Mary shirt. She had that particular shirt for years and loved it. It was not what she would ever wear if she had company, but here, at home it was comfortable. Being a college graduate from William & Mary was really just more of her identity in her career. She had many great memories and often reflected back on her college years. They were fun and adventurous, yet she knew her purpose of being there, to graduate and get the best job she could in her chosen career field.

As she reflected further, girlfriends, boyfriends, and especially roommates stood out to her for why she had such fun memories in college. As close as she was to some of her former roommates, much of that bond had now lapsed to social media exchanges and occasional phone calls and texts. In fact, each one of her former roommates were married now. Even her darling friend Emma, who came out as a lesbian while they were roommates, was married now. All her former boyfriends had moved on as had she from them. She kind of fibbed to Cynthia about her actively dating.

She had played with some apps and online dating, but it had been months since she did more than window shop. She just passively failed to respond to all attempts to meet up with her or open correspondence. She had even considered closing all her accounts, as many of them tracked her lack of responding and had subtle pressure to encourage her to take action. Of course, she knew the importance of marketing, and could see each of their purposes, and maybe that is also why she considered canceling them. As she told Cynthia, she just did not feel playful. She also had to admit to herself, she did not trust potential dates. She had a history of heartbreaks.

Sitting there on her couch, she broke out in laughter, Ray was her life coach, not a shrink. She did not have to open up to him about all her failed relationships and personal issues, she just needed to share with him what her personal goals were and what she wanted. She thought more of Ray. Why did she consider him formidable? The first thought that came in her head was his honesty. He was not a salesman. At least that was her first impression. He was a professional. Now just what he was a professional of, she was still discovering. She had reviewed his resume so many times now, she practically had it memorized. At the end of this trial month of his life coaching, she was already formulating what she would be consulting him on for marketing his business. That included some recommendations on his resume. It was not a bad resume, but it could be better.

Jenna laughed out loud again. She was already focused on her services to him as a client more than what he was to be providing to her as her life coach. She was all work and no play wasn't she! Did that really make her a dull person? She reflected deeper, it was just how she was. How she has been for years now.

"Look how well it has paid off for me at Barron and Associates," she thought to herself. She was on the fast track and that is what she wanted. "Do I really need to bring the rest of my personality out of the shadows? What if it gets in the way and sabotages my success?" Jenna wondered. "Maybe I need to spend some of my stipends on a shrink."

Jenna took all these thoughts with her to bed and then shuttered them for the night so she could finally fall asleep and be ready for her day. Her first appointment with Ray was not until next Monday night. She could spend her weekend working through her thoughts and have it all perfectly planned out in time for Monday. Ray had asked that she select the best location to meet, where she would feel most comfortable opening up to him about her personal goals and sharing more with him of who she was and who she wanted to be.

Jenna boldly told him, "Your contract has a strict clause of no sexual relations, so I feel comfortable inviting you over to my flat." She then shared the address and asked if 7:30 PM was too late for their first appointment.

He answered that would be perfect and that he would bring a bag of "ice breakers" with him. He smiled when he said that and said it would make more sense on Monday.

On Monday at 7 PM in her own flat, Jenna had butterflies again. She had decided to not go to the gym after work and had gone by herself to eat at Chick-fil-A near George Washington University on her way home from work. She even had a milkshake, as it had been months since she had eaten fast food.

She changed into comfortable jeans and a black fitted Oxford long sleeve blouse. She kept her black Portobello ankle boots on, although she normally went barefoot at home. Then she had worn circles around her furniture inspecting everything so that her living room and guest bathroom were perfectly presentable. She even plugged in the candle warmer putting in her favorite scent to make sure her flat smelled its best.

Her flat was in an older building that had been renovated into high end residential flats. Jenna's was on the 3rd floor and was all on one level. It had two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a utility room, a kitchen that opened into a small dining area which extended to the living room, and a covered balcony. Its location was perfect for Jenna, as she was close to a metro station and the building had underground parking for her car. It also had good security with limited access into the building and garage as well as an alarm system for her flat. She felt safe there.

At 7:25 PM, Jenna got the call that her guest, Mr. Ray Evans, had arrived, and was on his way up to her flat. Jenna greeted him at her door before he could ring the bell.

"Good evening Mr. Evans, welcome to my humble abode," Jenna said warmly as she led Ray into her living room after closing the door.

Ray was wearing gray British style dress pants and a long sleeve button down black shirt without a tie. He had a leather messenger bag with him.

"Nice to see you again, Jenna, thank you, this is a wonderful place," Ray responded as he looked around the room and stood next to an upholstered chair positioned near the couch. He waited there standing until Jenna sat on her couch. He then sat down in the chair facing towards her.

"That is a very nice "ice-breaker" bag you have there, Ray," Jenna said pointing at his leather messenger bag.

"Thank you, and an additional thank you for recognizing it as an "ice-breaker" bag," Ray smiled back. "We agreed to an hour and a half for our first consultation meeting today. I'd like to jump right into things if you don't mind, as I imagine time will go by very quickly."

Jenna responded back affirming Ray's request to get right down to business and pointed out to Ray the pitcher of water, as well as an assortment of soda cans available for him on the coffee table. She also explained where the guest bathroom was if he needed it.

They had additional small talk mixed in with Ray's reminder that this first consultation was meant for Jenna to share more with Ray more about herself beyond her career and what she hoped to benefit from with Ray's coaching. Jenna outlined her usual routines of work, yoga, and athletic club. She briefly shared about her family and that she was an only child. She also shared some of her college history and favorite hobbies. As Ray listened to Jenna, he also casually took in more details of the living room and its decorations. Of particular interest to Ray, was the large framed print mounted on the wall behind the couch. With polite timing, Ray asked about it.

"Excuse me, Jenna, I have listened to everything you have shared with me, but do you mind if we pause for me to ask about that framed print on the wall behind you? Is that by Rene Gruau?"

Jenna turned to look at the print herself as she responded, "Why yes, Ray, it is, and I am guessing you already know or can guess what it is called."

Ray smiled warmly as he responded back, "Blindfolded Woman. Yes, she is that, is that so you don't feel like you are being watched here in your living room? The rest of your art is mostly landscapes, and enlarged photos of structures and places I am guessing you have visited. That one is the only one with a person in it."

"I have never really thought about that, Ray," Jenna responded as she looked around her own living room. "So it is, the only person in the room, other than us of course. I love that print. I first got it in college, it was my first real art purchase."

"She does stand out," Ray commented, "Her red lips especially."

"Do you not like it?" Jenna asked sincerely, as she looked back over at the print.

"I do like it. It is not the first time I have seen that print. I am a little surprised to see it here in your living room though," Ray explained and continued, "It has a rebelliousness to it, don't you think?"

"As I have probably overstated Ray, my specialty is marketing, and Rene Gruau is an expert at advertising and getting attention for his work. Our discussion about it right now only emphasizes that point. That piece particularly. And, to answer your question, Ray, I don't think it is as rebellious as it is bold."

"I actually think it is working better for our discussion than anything I have tucked away in this "ice-breaker" bag of mine. It does not represent Barron and Associates, it is here in your home. It is a piece of your private life," Ray continued with eye contact now with Jenna, "You are not ashamed of it, it is prominent in your living room where all of your guests will undoubtedly notice it. It is part of your personal marketing outreach plan I guess."

"Hmm, I guess it is, responded Jenna, breaking eye contact, "This is the first focused discussion I have had with someone since I hung it there. Although I did have a crass discussion once with a boyfriend who noticed that same print when I had it in my college apartment."

"Crass?" queried Ray, "Sounds to me like he insulted something you value."

"Well yes, he made it sexual," Jenna said as she looked back up to the print, "I actually played along with him as I did not have the confidence I have now. He was a popular athlete and I was really attracted to him. Anyway, it obviously did not work out for our relationship."

Ray then went on with a deeper discussion with Jenna related to what she values and more of her personal life and goals. He complimented Jenna on opening up to him and how much she shared. He laughed when she admitted to him that she had to remind herself that Ray was a life coach and not a psychologist, so she did not need to bring out all her trust issues and challenges with her relationships, He validated her feelings and admitted he was not qualified for formal counseling, but the topic was a valid one for them to work on together. He reminded her that they had agreed to be a team. He explained that the way he saw himself being the most successful as her coach was to be worthy of her trust.

The hour and a half went by quickly and Ray concluded the session with a summary. "So Jenna, I did not write down notes during this first coaching session today, but I would like to give you a verbal summary of what we have accomplished and what I see as our next steps forward and next session. I definitely know more about you beyond your being a rising star at Barron and Associates. I am pleased that you have already established a productive relationship with Cynthia Cox and that she is coaching you in your professional goals. I don't remember ever meeting her, but because I have her to thank for the referral, I like her! Our coaching sessions will focus on building trust together and working to establish more detailed personal goals. We made a good start today. I am hoping I don't sink back in quicksand with what I am about to suggest." Ray paused for a reaction from Jenna.

"I will get my vine ready to swing over to you Mr. Evans," answered Jenna with a patient smile.

"Homework," continued Ray, "I would like you to consider spending a little of your money on an excursion before our next session."

"An excursion?" responded Jenna with her eyebrows raised.

"Yes, have you ever heard of a float tank?" asked Ray.

"A float tank? Jenna said, "You mean like a sensory deprivation tank like the Marvel Comics' superhero, Daredevil, used to retreat to?"

"Yes, that is exactly what I mean. They prefer calling it a float tank. I am guessing it is in their marketing outreach plan. Probably fewer people are excited about anything with deprivation in its title," Ray said smiling through his eyes again. "That would be your area of expertise, who knows, maybe you can offer them your marketing consulting expertise and they won't even charge you. You know, 'quid pro quo'."

"You enjoy teasing me, Mr. Evans, but that's okay," responded Jenna, "I am curious about this float tank excursion and accept your "homework". Anything I should be particularly paying attention to while I am floating?"

"Brave girl, and thank you for asking that, yes, please be prepared to report back to me all about your experience. Some people have reported they have hallucinations in the dark, and others have been freaked out and have trouble being so alone with themselves. I'm hoping you end up kind of in the median of those extremes, but we shall see. I never got into my "ice breaker" bag today, so we can look forward to its debut next week. Same time same place?"

"That will be perfect, Ray. I look forward to it," Jenna responded as she stood up.

Ray stood up as well and moved toward the front door and added in closing, "You have a beautiful place here, thank you for the refreshment and hospitality. See you next week. Happy floating!"

"See you next week, Ray, and thank you for today, I enjoyed it," responded Jenna as she opened the door to let Ray out. She noticed Ray take one last look at the Gruau print on her wall and then leaving with his warm smile still flashing through his eyes.

 

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